November 22, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

With ESEA Action Imminent, Advocates Maintain Pressure on Inclusion of School Libraries

Congress is ready to act on the long-delayed reauthorization [see SLJ‘s previous coverage] of the federal education bill, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) sooner than expected.

School library supporters should be, too.

This is the first new education bill since No Child Left Behind. In that act, school libraries were left out, which resulted in widespread cuts to school library staff and resources. Many see this bicameral, bipartisan compromise measure as a chance to reverse that—but only if school librarians are specifically included in the provisions.

“This is a momentous time for all libraries and education policy. And, whether we are supporting or opposing the ESEA Conference Report [based on the language], we will need you to contact your congressperson right away,” says Sari Feldman, American Library Association (ALA) president. “Strong and effective school library programs with professional librarians transform the learning experience, providing students with invaluable access to support, resources and tools.”

November 30 key date

“All school library supporters should get ready to call their congressman on November 30,” advises Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the ALA Washington Office. What the message may be, though, is still uncertain. “It’s either going to be ‘Vote for the ESEA bill,’ or ‘Vote against the ESEA bill.’ We won’t know until November 30 and we see the bill. We’ve been trying to get the language,” Sheketoff explains.

As soon as the ALA Washington Office sees if the recommended language on school libraries has been included, it’ll advise supporters on which approach to take. Either way, fast action is needed, with only two business days between November 30 and December 2, when the bill will be debated on the House floor.

ALA will post full information on the suggested strategy prominently on its site, as well as send out an email blast to members.

Phase 2

If the bill is passed as is, the Senate could take it up as soon as December 7, another short window for action.  After the House vote on December 2, ALA will post an alert to the Legislative Action Center with instructions on how  advocates—teens, too—can help, including sample Tweets.

The first order of business at that time? “Calling both senators,” says Sheketoff. The action center will provide suggested talking points for the call. The Telling Our Story page on the ALA site has ideas as well.

ALA President Sari Feldman meeting with students at Thomson Elementary School in Washington, DC

ALA president Sari Feldman meeting with students at Thomson Elementary School in Washington, DC

President Obama could sign a new ESEA—one that gives school librarians the support they need and deserve—before Christmas. “The fate of school libraries rests in the hands of school librarians,” notes Beth Yoke, CAE, executive director of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). “School librarians need to mobilize themselves and their supporters to speak up now, because without grassroots support, Congress will fail to recognize the importance of school libraries.”

 

Christina Vercelletto About Christina Vercelletto

Christina Vercelletto is School Library Journal’s former news editor. An award-winning writer and editor, Vercelletto has held staff positions at Babytalk, Parenting, Scholastic Parent & Child, and NYMetroParents.com.

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